Polk County grand jury indicts woman for murder of son in field

 Kimberly Lightwine
Kimberly Lightwine (KY3)
Published: Oct. 31, 2016 at 1:51 PM CDT
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A Polk County grand jury recently indicted a woman from the Bolivar area for the murder and abuse of her son, who had debilitating disabilities. The arrest warrant for that indictment had not been served on Kimberly Lightwine, as of Monday afternoon, so it wasn’t public, but a spokeswoman for the prosecutor, as well as Lightwine's defense attorney, confirmed the indictment.

Lightwine has been free on a $100,000 bond for about two weeks after a judge decided she wouldn’t be a flight risk or danger to the community. Her attorney, Jason Coatney of Springfield, says she is living outside Polk County, going to work, providing a urine sample for drug screening twice a week, and preparing for two surgeries to repair her shattered knee. Coatney said he hopes a judge will dismiss the arrest warrant for his client after the indictment, so she can voluntarily appear in Polk County Circuit Court next Monday or Tuesday.

Lightwine was charged in early September for the death of Austin Anderson, 19, whose nearly naked body was found in a field east of Morrisville on Aug. 29. His mother, Lightwine, was lying nearby with a broken leg. She was waving her arms to try to get someone’s attention. Investigators think the mother and son may have been in the field for up to three days. Lightwine required treatment at a hospital.

Lightwine was charged with second-degree murder and elder abuse; under state law, the elder abuse law also applies if the victim is an adult with a disability. Lightwine told officers that her son was blind and had autism.

Lightwine’s sister, Stephanie Saloga, who lives out of Missouri, said she didn’t believe Lightwine killed her son. She said she believed Lightwine was a victim because she was lured away from her apartment in Bolivar, kidnapped by three people who drugged her, beat her and left Lightwine and Anderson in the field. Saloga said she got that information from talking to her sister.

Coatney said on Monday that he believes one of the three people who drugged, kidnapped, and beat Lightwine and left Anderson to die is a murderer who recently got out of prison. He said he wanted Lightwine to be away from Bolivar for her safety.

Coatney says Lightwine is "missing four days of memory" from the time she was in the field.

"Methamphetamine does not do that," said the attorney, who believes Lightwine was drugged.

"She has no explanation for the damage to her knee," said Coatney.

Coatney said he is waiting to see Lightwine's medical records, and believes she was the victim of sexual assault while she was drugged. He's also waiting for an analysis of Lightwine's cell phone by the Missouri Crime Information Center, which he believes will show who was communicating with her in the days before she ended up in the field and Anderson died.

"I'm perplexed as to why they're focusing on her," said Coatney.

Sheriff Kay Williams refuses to answer reporters’ questions about the investigation and whether the family’s claims have been checked. The murder case appears to be built on the statement that Lightwine gave to detectives.

Coatney also is waiting to see the video of Lightwine's statement to detectives at the Polk County Sheriff's Department soon after she was rescued from the field between Brighton and Morrisville. He says Lightwine told him that, even though she was severely dehydrated and suffering from a broken leg, detectives withheld water and medical treatment from her until she made a statement.

"If she made a statement, they would give her water," is how Lightwine recalls the interview, Coatney said.

Polk County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Ashlock said he charged Lightwine with murder because he believes Lightwine caused her son’s death while committing another felony, which he said is elder abuse.

The indictment replaces the previous charges filed by the prosecuting attorney against Lightwine and sends the case directly to circuit court. The indictment means there will be no preliminary hearing at which an associate circuit judge would hear some of the evidence and determine whether to send the case to trial court. Coatney and the spokeswoman for the prosecuting attorney’s office say the charges in the indictment are the same as the previously filed charges. The original case filed in September is no longer viewable online by the public.

Coatney said he believes Ashlock chose to get an indictment because he already had a grand jury empaneled for other cases, and prosecutors are better able to control the process with a grand jury. Defendants and defense attorneys are not allowed in grand jury proceedings, so prosecution witnesses don't have to face hostile questions like they sometimes do in a preliminary hearing.

Previous report

An injured woman who was found lying in a field in southern Polk County is charged with murdering her son, whose body was found nearby. Kimberly Lightwine, 42, is charged with second-degree murder and abuse of her disabled son.

Law enforcement officers found the body of Austin Anderson, 19, wearing only a diaper, about 15 or 20 feet from a vehicle in a field near Missouri 215 at Missouri 13, east of Morrisville, on Aug. 29. Lightwine was next to the vehicle, lying face down and nearly naked. Officers told the landowner that she was waving her arms to try to get someone's attention, and had a broken leg. Investigators think Anderson might have died as early as Aug. 26.

The probable cause statement against Lightwine says she admitted several times on the way to the sheriff's office in Bolivar that she'd killed her son. She said later, after being read her Miranda rights, that she and her son had been lying in the field for a couple of days, but she couldn't remember exactly how long. She said she remembered driving to the field.

"I'm a terrible mother. I got high, and I got depressed, and I think I am going to throw up," she told the detective, according to the probable cause statement.

She told the detective that she was high on methamphetamine at the time and had used meth for years.

Lightwine said her son was blind in both eyes and had autism. She said she remembered being angry and screaming from the top of her vehicle. She remembered telling her son, "Austin, get out of the car and go reach out for help. Put your hands in front of your for help, and God is going to take care of you." She also said she threw him through a barbed wire fence to get him to safety, according to the probable cause statement.

Lightwine said she remembered him falling to the ground but didn't know what happened next. She said, ""My baby kept getting hot and kept coming back and wanting his mommy, but I knew it wasn't good," and, "No, you don't want to love me, please let God take you."

"I don't know how many days, I don't know how long he'd been on the ground, he cried for me," she told the detective.

She said she thought they'd been there longer than a day when they were found.

"I asked her how long it had been since her son had stopped asking for her," the detective wrote. "She stated, 'I don't know, at least several days. I just try to block so much out.' I asked Kimberly LIghtwine if she had ever gone to her son and she stated, 'I just blocked it out. I just kept thinking that God or somebody came and got him and took him where he need to be. I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking.'

"I asked Kimberly Lightwine if God came and took her son to where he needed to be, would that be Heaven? Kimberly Lightwine stated that she did not know if that would be Heaven or to his daddy," the probable cause statement says.

LIghtwine told the detective that her son couldn't take care of himself without her care. She remembered in the field that he said, "Mommy, I want to go home," but she couldn't remember when he stopped talking.

Lightwine eventually told the detective that she didn't want to talk anymore. A deputy than took her to a hospital for her broken leg.

"A nurse asked how her leg got hurt and (she) later stated that she remembered it giving out as she was pushing her son through several fences, trying to get away from the bad place. She also made the statement in front of (a deputy) 'I killed my baby' several times. (The deputy) also reported that (she) made the statement 'whatever happened to him, I did it,'" according to the probable cause statement.

Detectives interviewed Anderson's father, who confirmed his son was blind in both eyes and diagnosed with autism. He said Anderson completely depended on his mother for his care.

The father said his son was not able to walk far without help, and had only a limited vocabulary. He also said Anderson took several medications, including hydrocortisone needed to keep him from going into a coma and dying.

The father said Lightwine had a violent temper. He recalled an incident in which Anderson kicked Lightwine and she reacted violently by grabbing him and cussing at him.

The autopsy showed Anderson was dehydrated, his brain was swollen, and likely went into shock from lack of medication, according to the probable cause statement. A pathologist said Anderson appeared to die from neglect from not having proper medication -- hydrocortisone -- to maintain his adrenal gland.

The pathologist also said exposure to the elements contributed to the teenager's death. The high temperatures on Aug. 27, 28, and 29 were in the low 90s, with nightly lows about 71 and maximum relative humidity in the 90 percent range each day.

Polk County sheriff's deputies and Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers looked for Lightwine and Anderson after her sister, who lives in Tennessee, told Bolivar police on Aug. 28 that she couldn't reach them and feared for the safety of her sister and her nephew, who had physical and mental health problems.

Lightwine's sister said they'd been living in a motel in Bolivar, although online court records list Lightwine's address as a rural home in Dade County, west of Aldrich. Officers searched the motel room where they'd been staying and found evidence of meth, as well as a supply of hydrocortisone pills that showed Anderson likely had not been taking them as prescribed. A motel employee said the mother and son had last been seen in their room on Aug. 27.

The Polk County prosecuting attorney charged Lightwine on Saturday but law enforcement officers didn't release any information about the case over the Labor Day weekend. Her bond is $250,000. She is not in jail, likely because she is still in a hospital.

Lightwine is also charged with second-degree elder abuse, a crime that applies to a disabled adult over age 18 "who is unable to protect his or her own interests or adequately perform or obtain services which are necessary to meet his or her essential human needs" if someone "recklessly and purposely causes serious physical injury."

If Lightwine is convicted, she could get a prison sentence between 10 and 30 years for murder and up to 20 years for elder abuse.

A graveside service for Anderson is scheduled for Wednesday in Butterfield, near where Anderson's father lives in Barry County. The family set up a GoFundMe page for his funeral: https://www.gofundme.com/wingsforaustin